Coronavirus 1) All schools to reopen on March 8th as start to “cautious” lifting of lockdown

“Boris Johnson will announce that the ‘stay at home’ rule will be scrapped next month, as outdoor sports return and families can finally meet in gardens. Revealing his long-awaited reopening “road map”, the Prime Minister will say school sports will be allowed when children return to classrooms on Mar 8 and all organised outdoor sport will be permitted from Mar 29. Guidance telling people to stay at home and in their local area will also lift on Mar 29, The Telegraph understands, with groups of six or two households able to meet outside from that date. However, the lifting of lockdown will be gradual, spread over at least four months with social distancing rules and guidance to work from home remaining in the near term. There will be four different ‘stages’ of the reopening roadmap, and to progress through them four data ‘tests’ must be met, showing that vaccines are effective and hospitals are protected.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hairdressers will open in mid-April… – The Sun
  • No, late April – The Guardian
  • No, May – Daily Telegraph
  • “Trade-off ” between social contact and reopening the economy – The Guardian
  • Self-catering holiday rentals “likely” to reopen in time for the Easter – The Times
  • Some Scottish pupils go back today – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: Is Johnson under-promising on opening-up in order to over-deliver?


Coronavirus 2) Announcement will be at 3pm – followed by a TV broadcast this evening

“The Prime Minister will bring his plan before parliament at 3pm today, before making a live televised address to the nation at 7pm. His blueprint will see lockdown eased in four steps — with four key tests applied to each stage of the way to freedom. Mr Johnson will warn that for each step to be taken, benchmark numbers will need to be met on Covid cases, hospital admissions, vaccinations and deaths.” – The Sun

Coronavirus 3) Hancock insists that delaying the publishing of contracts was “the right thing to do”

“Matt Hancock says it was “the right thing to do” to delay publishing contracts during the pandemic, despite a court ruling he acted unlawfully. A judge ruled the health secretary had “breached his legal obligation” by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed. But Mr Hancock told the BBC his team had been focused on sourcing PPE. He said they “spent all of their time buying life-saving equipment, even if the paperwork was a little bit late”. But one of the MPs who supported the legal action – the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas – said Mr Hancock’s response made her angry.” – BBC

  • Health Secretary’s ex-neighbour under investigation by UK’s medicine agency – The Guardian


Coronavirus 4) Enhanced local testing “keeping South African variant under control”

“One in three adults in the UK has had their first dose of vaccine, Matt Hancock said yesterday, as he published data suggesting the jab had a big effect on reducing the spread of coronavirus….He also said that he was reassured that the South African variant, which is believed to be at least partially resistant to vaccines, was not circulating widely here. He said that enhanced local testing and contact tracing appeared to be keeping it under control.” – The Times

>Yesterday: WATCH: Hague – After restrictions are lifted, “there has to be a deal” between the Government and citizens for testing measures

Coronavirus 5) Vaccines showing an impact in the data with improvements for the over-80s

“The effects of the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines have begun to show up in the official figures on infections, hospitalisations and deaths: improvements in the data for the vaccinated over-80s population are outpacing those for younger people. The trend comes as Boris Johnson, the prime minister, prepares to reveal on Monday the government’s road map out of the current lockdown, using data, not dates, to ease the current restrictions. It will raise expectations that the relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions can be more durable this year than last.” – Financial Times

  • Hospital admissions were falling “much more sharply” than they were in the pandemic’s first wave – BBC
  • Costs are rising exponentially for Europe’s disinformation war on vaccine science – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 5) NHS sets up mental health hubs for staff

“The NHS is setting up dozens of mental health hubs to help staff who have been left traumatised by treating Covid patients during the pandemic. There is mounting concern that large numbers of frontline workers have experienced mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder over the last year.” – The Guardian

>Today: Columnist Neil O’Brien: The NHS and jobs. Family and community. Indispensable means of boosting our mental health.

Coronavirus 6) Timothy: There is no roadmap that can take us back to the way things used to be

“As we learn the lessons of our poor preparedness and mistakes as ministers wrestled with Covid, the state is only likely to grow more powerful. Already, plans are afoot to restore ministerial control of the NHS. Some ministers are growing more circumspect of devolving powers. Industrial strategy – supported only tentatively by Conservative MPs to date – has more support. Resilience, and not just efficiency, is the new watchword in government…As ever with great changes, there will be costs and benefits, and opportunities and risks to the Government’s ambitions for the country. Only one thing is certain: there will be no way back to how things used to be.” – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

Other comment

  • We must accept some risk – Leader, The Sun
  • The current lockdown laws expire on March 31. That should be the point of no return – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Let’s not waste a year of sacrifice in a rush to be free, – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • Fear of offence kills when it comes to Covid – Trevor Phillips, The Times
  • Restaurants are safe… we must let them reopen- Ranald Macdonald, Daily Mail
  • We gambled and won on vaccines. Now we must not waste that capital – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail
  • Education is not enough for children to recover – Leader, The Guardian

Johnson told to “get a grip” over Downing Street

“Boris Johnson was urged yesterday to get a grip on his warring Downing Street factions as Conservative unease grew about the influence of Carrie Symonds, his fiancée. Senior Tory MPs said that there was “bemusement” at the departure of Oliver Lewis, the prime minister’s former adviser on the Union, after he was accused of briefing against Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister. Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s new chief of staff, has also received negative briefings, with some inside Downing Street accusing him of cutting out other key aides from meetings.” – The Times

  • These feuding tribes have turned No.10 into a playground – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Mordaunt criticised for Muslim Council of Britain meeting

“A top Tory minister has been slapped down after boasting she sat down with a boycotted Muslim group. Ex-Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt met the Muslim Council of Britain on Friday. This was despite an existing “non-engagement” policy for ministers towards the group since 2009. The MCB has been the centre of controversy despite claiming to be the UK’s main “national representative Muslim body”. It has been criticised as not being reflective of the Muslim community. The last Labour government cut ties with the group after a leading member signed a declaration calling for acts of violence against Israel. But Ms Mordaunt infuriated No10 and the Home Office over the talks with new secretary-general Zara Mohammed.” – The Sun

Chief Constables must be held accountable, Patel to declare

“Police chiefs must be held to account for “controversial” operations such as Extinction Rebellion’s blockade of printworks, Priti Patel is to tell elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs). The Home Secretary will this week publish a review of PCCs’ role amid concerns that some are unwilling to challenge their police chiefs to explain “operational” decisions that may spark public controversy. It follows cases known to have infuriated ministers including a decision by police initially not to halt a demonstration by Extinction Rebellion (XR) protestors aimed at preventing publication of national newspapers by blockading printing presses at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. There was widespread criticism when assistant chief constable Owen Weatherill said his force was “committed to facilitating lawful protest and ensuring compliance” instead of dispersing some 100 demonstrators sitting on the road or chained to infrastructure.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Is Home Secretary planning to replace Cressida Dick with a hardliner? – The Times

Raab to challenge China over human rights abuses

“Dominic Raab will today take aim at China’s “extreme” human rights abuses and call for the United Nations to be sent in. Britain has re-joined the UN Human Rights Council as a voting member.And the Foreign Secretary has been preparing a full-on verbal assault on both China and Russia to mark the occasion. He will brand Communist superpower China “beyond the pale” in a dramatic upping of hostility. And he will savage Russia’s poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.” – The Sun

  • Foreign Secretary demands military leaders must release Aung San Suu Kyi – BBC

Dowden warns museums not to “skew” history

“Museums and heritage organisations will be told by the culture secretary not to skew the public understanding of British history with a selective view focusing on matters such as slavery. Oliver Dowden is said to be concerned by a “poor understanding” of Britain’s imperial past and the risk of denigrating the country’s “unique” contribution to shaping the modern world. Tomorrow he will meet representatives of 25 organisations including the National Trust, the British Museum and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to discuss portrayals of history and the government’s policy of “retaining and explaining”, rather than removing, controversial monuments.” – The Times

  • The culture war isn’t harmless rhetoric, it’s having a chilling effect on equality- Nesrine Malik, The Guardian

Duncan Smith: The Northern Ireland Protocol must be replaced

“The pressing problem of the Protocol is that, in creating a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, it is putting a great strain on the economic and constitutional stability of Northern Ireland. This was perhaps always inevitable because, as a cursory study of recent history shows, the Protocol was originally not intended to be permanent. It was supposed to be a staging post on the way to a new settlement and it can and must be replaced.” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • Foster launches legal challenge – Daily Telegraph
  • No 10 should think twice before playing hardball on Northern Ireland – Tom Kelly, The Times

>Today: Jonathan Werran on Comment: The Union and the English question. The answer is to let a hundred localist flowers bloom

Foges: Follow Australia and get tough on Facebook

“By scorning the reach of governments, big tech is not standing up for the little people but trampling all over us. Dispiritingly, all this has seemed inevitable, just the way the winds blow in the 21st century. This is why the Australian move is so significant. It feels like the first stone David lobbed at Goliath, for now that a government has squared up to Facebook it may begin to expose the emptiness behind the mightiness; how little we really need it. Australians can get their news elsewhere, indeed may even pay for it directly.” – Clare Foges, The Times

  • Dowden ‘to confront Facebook this week’ over blocking news in Australia – Daily Mail

News in brief

  • What to expect from the PM’s lockdown roadmap – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • How to pacify the populists – David Jeffrey, Unherd
  • If a British Recovery Bond is Labour’s big idea, it’s time to think again – Julian Jessop, CapX
  • Starmer has closed the gap – but Johnson is still preferred as prime minister – John Rentoul, Independent
  • Exit Gove, enter Lord Frost – in the nick of time – Timothy Bradshaw, Conservative Woman